The Story Behind "Bloody Bridge" 

By Judy Deeter

ST. MARYS - Winding along State Route 66 between Spencerville and St. Marys is the Miami and Erie Canal.  For miles along the old waterway, a walk along its towpath or a drive along its banks can lift the spirits; it is truly a beautiful area. There is one spot, however, where you might want to walk or drive just a little faster—a place called the “Bloody Bridge.”

While some people believe the story about the Bloody Bridge is legend, many say the event—the murder—really happened.  The Auglaize County Historical Society believes the story is true; they placed an historical marker at the site.

The year was 1854. Boats moved up and down the canal transporting people and goods. Canals boats were pulled through the water by mules walking a towpath on shore. Jack Billings and Bill Jones were mule drivers for canal boats.  Jack Billings worked for the canal boat “Daisy”; Bill Jones for the “Minnie Warren”, which was named for the Captain’s daughter and the girl both Billings and Jones wanted as their own.

At first, the rivalry for Minnie’s affection was friendly.  As time went on, however, Minnie became more responsive to Jack Billings. As Minnie and Jack fell in love, Bill Jones became angry and bitter. Some stories say that as the canal boats passed, Minnie and Jack blew kisses to each other, which enraged Bill.

In June 1854, both the canal boats “Minnie Warren” and “Daisy” were docked near the village of  Kossuth, Ohio for loading and unloading. Jack and Minnie went to dinner and then attended a party.  Early in the morning, the couple walked back toward the canal boats.  As they strolled across a bridge, an enraged Bill Jones confronted them.  In a split second, he raised an ax and chopped off Jack Billings head.  Minnie screamed in horror as she watched the man she loved die.  She fell to the ground and hysterically rolled across it into the canal to her death.

As Minnie’s screams tore into the June air, people came running, but they were too late to save her.  All they could do was pull her lifeless body out of the water and bury she and Jack side by side.  It is said that Jack Billings’ blood could still be seen on the bridge in the 1890s.

No one is quite sure what happened to Bill Jones, but many think that a body found years later at the bottom of a well might have been his.  He might have committed suicide by jumping in the well.

Is this story a legend?  It is the truth?  Those who know for sure, like the canals, are gone.

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